Member and neighbour States

An unexpected victory

On last Wednesday, Dutch people came back to poll stations to renew their lower Chamber due to the resignation of the Premier Mark Rutte, after Geert Wilders, the PPV populist leader withdrew his support to the liberal – Christian-democrat coalition on the last Spring. 

This election, the fifth in ten years, was eagerly awaited in the context of crisis within the EU. It marked the come-back of the pro-Europeans parties after a populist wave started ten years ago with the former far-right leader, Pim Fortyun. For a while, the PVV and the SP (Socialistische Partij) were considered as the ballot’s favourites, the far Left party even hoping to cause a stir. During the campaign, the PVV and the SP focused their strategy on questioning the European integration and even suggested to leave the European Union, a seducing argument for the euro-sceptic part of the electorate. Emile Roemer, the SP leader, promised to question the harshly negotiated TSCG (Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance), if he won the election and became Prime Minister. As Burgoon Brian, associate professor at Amsterdam University, explained for Euronews: “There are very strong divisions on these issues, in the context of economic crisis, and in the context of a variety of crises in Europe of the euro and sovereignty debt, you see a very strong increase on both poles of the political spectrum”.

This strategy was not approved by the Dutch voters if we refer to the outcomes announced by NOS. According to the State television, the Mark Rutte’s VVD (liberal party) and the PvdA (labour party) are the main winners of the ballot with 41 and 39 seats respectively. Meanwhile, Geert Wilders’ party suffers from an important decline, passing from 24 to 15 seats and Emile Roemer’s SP gets a disappointing result, far from the forecast made by the opinion poll institutes which predicted about thirty MPs for the Left euro-sceptic party, which would have been enough to weigh within the Parliament.

The PVV and SP decline may be explained by a certain realism shown by the Dutch people towards the crisis and the offered solutions. Facing seducing but radical proposals by Geert Wilders and Emile Roemer, the Batavian voters finally chose pragmatism, giving their votes to two traditional parties. VVD and PvdA understood it well: while their respective leaders reaffirmed their European commitment, they were much more moderate and evasive about the solution to bring, though they were steadier on the currently implemented policies towards Greece and the Eurozone.

As Paul Scheffer, a Dutch sociologist, indicates in the French newspaper Le Monde: “the external policy became an internal one or largely influenced the national debate”, which probably explains the success of the Liberals and the Labour, who will probably rule the Netherlands building a new coalition, insofar as neither VVD, nor PvdA got the absolute majority. The task will not be easy due to some remaining differences between the two winners as the Euro crisis and the attitude to adopt towards Greece, which favours a fragile coalition probably extended to the D66 (the Left liberals) and CDA, in spite of crushing defeat of the Christian-democrat party. Nonetheless, the pro-European parties’ electoral performance (except the CDA which got less ten seats, the worst result since the existence of the party) shows that despite of the crisis and the austerity plans imposed by the Mark Rutte’s outgoing government, Dutch people finally preferred pragmatic and realist solutions to uncertain and radical measures. Moreover, the Dutch elections confirm a tendency: the populist movements fail to attract enough votes to win the election, as previous ballots in Greece, Portugal and Ireland (the EU Member States most affected by the crisis) showed.

Gilles Johnson

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